Large backyards pose a challenge that may seem like a luxury at first, but actually require a unique kind of imagination and discipline to design.

“When you deal with a larger yard, you put in your pool, your fire pit, fireplaces, dining areas, and now you’re still stuck with a ton of room,” says Joey Pecoraro, designer and owner of Las Vegas-based Architectural Design Concepts. “So now the challenge is: What am I going to do with this space, because there is so much room.”

The answer is to do what you would on a smaller yard — develop an overriding design concept and tie everything into it. But you have to do this on a larger scale, which requires even more dedication to maintaining the integrity of the concept.

Here, we present a follow-up to a story that ran in the Sept. 30, 2009, issue, highlighting two large backyards, their basic theme, and how it was carried through.

Designer: Joey Pecoraro, owner Architectural Design Concepts

Las Vegas

This three-acre lot had a view of the Vegas Strip, but it sat so low that any real walls, structures or terracing would obstruct the vista. This presented Pecoraro with a challenge.

The resulting design features a very open yard with the pool placed at least 35 feet from the house. To have it any closer to such a large residence would be too claustrophobic, Pecoraro said.

Circles help tie the yard from front to back plan. Upon entering the space, you’ll find a round garden made to showcase a sculpture (Photo A). Lining up with it are two circular forms — a dining room area and paved path that winds around three palms (Photo B). This helps tie the large yard together.

A path also rambles the yard’s perimeter. To drive observers around it, Pecoraro included a bridge, with gulch and cactus garden beneath (Photo C). The gulch also catches drainage around the site when it rains. A radiused arbor highlights the walk (Photo D). Pecoraro made the walkways about 7 feet wide, to keep with the scale of the space and allow traffic flow when the clients entertain guests. Heavily planted desert gardens provide visual stimulation.

Pecoraro used elevation to create separate rooms. The circular dining room area surrounded by auditorium stairs and a fire pit are sunken to provide a feeling of privacy. This offers seclusion without being claustrophobic (Photo B).

“You don’t have a dungeon feel there because the walls don’t go all the way around you,” Pecoraro says.

A bar near the pool and a barbecue area are both sunken 36 inches.

A fire pit and putting green are placed farthest away, as tempting destination points (Photo E).

Designer: Stefan Thuilot, principal

Thuilot Associates

Berkeley, Calif.

This yard was organized by placing terraces near the house and a waterfeature at the center. The fountain serves as a focal point and helps divide that space into a separate room (Photo A).

The floating concrete panel forming part of the waterfeature base helps create interest. “It’s basically a little hop, so to speak,” Thuilot says. “It’s seen from many areas of the garden. It breaks what I find to be really a pretty stiffening transition. If you step onto that platform, you’re surrounded by water, and it always evokes a certain feeling.”

Walkways were created to form an almost complete circuit around the yard’s perimeter plan. “It’s very important to me to create spaces that are interconnected, especially for large gardens, where you have a lot of opportunities to walk loops and not to create dead-end passes,” Thuilot says.

Minimalist steel arbors planted with wisteria provide a series of airy dividers that will shield a sunning patio at one end of the house (Photo B).

Thuilot used elevation to create a variety of spaces. A circular gravel area with a bench at the end of the property is sunken for seclusion, and Thuilot placed irregular stones in a winding path that lead to this quiet space (Photo C). This leaves the walker slightly unsteady, forcing him or her to slow down and enjoy a bamboo grove on the way to the meditative area.

The most open part of the yard is an overlook, placed slightly higher than the patios and waterfeature, allowing for a view of the whole area (Photo D).

Steel was chosen as a unifying material throughout the project. It appears on the waterfeature and in sheets that sandwich the Napa basalt that was used for planter walls (Photo E). The stone also accents the waterfeature.

Meanwhile, the decks near the house are veneered in Ipe to provide a distinct and more formal look.


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